Dane Goodwin’s verbal commitment to Notre Dame is a big blow to the start of Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State tenure, but it’s also a reminder why he is the coach of the Buckeyes today.
The four-star player from practically across the street opting for the Fighting Irish confirms Buckeye basketball had devolved into a no-win situation under Thad Matta.
The end-of-season loss to hopeless Rutgers notwithstanding, the program was far from cratering — at least with the talented three-man 2018 class that was coming.
I don’t think any of the single-digit-win seasons endured under Randy Ayers and Jim O’Brien were coming down the pike, but that might have been as likely as another Final Four.
If you’re a big fan of the latter (not to mention contending for the Big Ten championship), change needed to be made.
The timing of the move was not great – sentiment might not have resulted in one too many years, but it allowed his tenure to last an extra couple of months that might prove damaging in the long run.
I write that while working under the assumption Holtmann is a good hire, probably the best realistic one OSU AD Gene Smith could have made this year regardless of whether he held the search in March, April, May or June.
The best arguments for keeping Matta were his past success (this was really not a great argument at all in a vacuum, but it could still be made) and the talented three-man 2018 recruiting class he had coming in.
That’s because his past success was almost entirely a result of great recruiting, and with precious few exceptions recruiting had gone into decline, at least until this most recent cycle.
But now the 2018 class is entirely gone, 1/3 because of the sinking profile of Matta’s program but 2/3 because of the decision to dump Matta before it got worse.
(Darius Bazley of Cincinnati Princeton jumped ship before the move was made; Goodwin and Versailles guard Justin Ahrens after.)
Welcome to life in the big city, even one where people care roughly 100 times more about football than basketball.
I came to the conclusion at the top of this column based on what Goodwin told 247sports about committing to Notre Dame this week.
Familiarity, which was ironically the only thing Matta had going for him aside from the mostly inanimate banners hanging from the rafters and old newspaper clippings growing yellow with age, was what the hometown four-star kid wanted.
“One of the most important things for me in making this decision was the people around it,” Goodwin said. “All of the coaches there are well respected. All of the players there are good guys. I just liked the feel around the program. That was the biggest thing for me.”
Goodwin talked about the stability around the Notre Dame program.
“They’ve had great success the past couple of years and really throughout the last couple of decades,” Goodwin said. “It’s over and over. I’m really looking forward to getting there. The people in my class … I think we can do something special. I am ready to get that under way.”
Ain’t that a kicker?
He chose the out-of-state school with the entrenched coach over the hometown team that just opted to make a change to try to ensure the future looks more like the past than the present.
Some collateral damage is inevitable in a coaching change (unless you hire Urban Meyer, of course), but the great hopes of having a strong 2018 class are starting to dwindle as three of the top four prospects in Ohio are already headed out of state.
Can Holtmann rally to salvage what’s left?
It might not make or break his overall tenure (Hello, eight-year contract!), but it will likely define how long the transition period lasts.
The Buckeyes are already staring at one likely lost season, but I think a lot of people were anticipating his being able to reload quickly without having to even cross the border.
Matta’s tenure started faster than anyone could have imagined. It’s going to be hard for Holtmann to replicate that, but again, there’s not much reason to think the good ol’ days were ever coming back under Matta, so this was all probably inevitable.
What does football season start?